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Rashômon (1950)

No one tells a lie after he’s said he’s going to tell one.

— Commoner

I do not know that many Kurosawa’s movies. I have only seen Seven Samurai and have reviewed as part of the LAMB in the Director’s Chair spotlight a while ago. I wanted to see more of Kurosawa’s film because I enjoyed Seven Samurai very much. I wanted the #8o Film of All Time on IMDb, Rashomon. It was nominated for Best Art Direction, but it won an Honorary Award for Foreign Language Film, not the competitive Oscar. It was expected to be blown away, but I felt cheated.

The story takes place in the ruined temple of Rashômon where is a torrential rainstorm. A Commoner (Kichijirô Ueda) seeks refuse from the rain. He sees the Priest (Minoru Chiaki) and the Woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) look visibly distraught. The Commoner asks the men what is disturbing them. The Woodcutter tells him about a terrible that happened in the middle of woods on top of the mountain.

He recounts finding a woman’s hat in a tree branch, then a samurai’s cap, a piece of rope and finally the samurai’s body. He goes to the police. The Woodcutter tells his account to the trial of the bandit, Tajômaru (Toshirô Mifune).

Tajômaru tells his tale when the Policeman (Daisuke Katô) arrested in the woods after the murder. Tajômaru tells why he did what he did, because he wanted to capture the wife, Masako (Machiko Kyô) of her husband, Takehiro Kanazawa (Masayuki Mori), but not kill him. Tajômaru ties up husband to a nearby tree. Masako tries to stab Tajômaru with her pearl inlay. He forces himself upon her. Afterwards, Masako says that he dies or her husband.

The Woodcutter thinks that the story is a lie. The movie gives three other versions of the story. One of them is true, but which one.

The movie’s plot was not what I was expecting. Granted, I went into this completely blind. The premise seemed silly to me. I have to watch an hour and half of people counted stories from different perspectives. That’s it. I felt cheated. I thought it was going to be an epic movie, but it was very quiet and subdued. I didn’t care for it. I started and stopped it at least three times, because I was not invested in the story.

Judgment: The theme is interesting, but the rest is not.

Rating: 5/10

Seven Samurai (1954)

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Find hungry samurai.

— Gisaku

The next person in the LAMB director’s chair for this month is the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Known for his samurai epics, most of his filmography was in the Criterion Collection as was his best known epic, Seven Samurai. It is currently ranked #14 of the Top 250 of All Time on IMDb. It was nominated two Academy Awards in 1954.

Not being familiar with Kurosawa’s work, I wanted to see the grandaddy of them all. Watching the movie, it was good film, but you really have to invest your body and soul to it.

Taking place in 16th century Japan, the movie is about a group of villagers that are besieged by a team of bandits that want to pillage their rice and wheat. Being that it was not harvest time, the bandits to come back when the rice is ripe to take it.

Scared for their safety, a couple of villagers Rikichi (Yoshio Tsuchiya), Yohei (Bokuzen Hidari) and an samurai apprentice, Katsushiro Okamoto (Isao Kimura) set out on a journey to find a samurai suggested by the village elder, Gisaku (Kokuten Kodo) to help them protect their village when the bandits come back.

On the journey, they meet an older but wiser samurai, Kambei Shimada (Takashi Shimura) that has the job to recruit six other samurai to protect the village. He recruits Gorobei Katayama (Yoshio Inaba), Kyuzo (Seiji Miyaguchi),  Heihachi Hayashida (Minoru Chiaki), Shichiroji (Daisuke Katô) and Kikuchiyo (Toshirô Mifune).

During the course of the movie, the seven samurais train the villagers to defend themselves against the rebels that will eventually come.

The performances were very good, especially Toshirô Mifune as Kikuchiyo. He is crazy and dirty. Loved him so much. When the movie got boring in parts, he makes you want to watch more. What is he going to do next?

The score by Fumio Hayasaka was so good. There was so much tension in his simplistic sounds.

This is a very simple story. Does it need to be dragged out for three and half hours? I was happy for the intermission in the middle, but when the final credits rolled. I was physically exhausted.

Judgment: A well made film that needs your undivided attention to fully enjoy it.

Rating: ****1/2

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